What is palliative care?

Palliative care is specialized medical care that provides an extra layer of support to patients with serious illnesses, including patients who are undergoing aggressive treatment. It focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain and stresses associated with serious illness. The goal is to improve overall quality of life for patients, families and caregivers.

Is palliative care the same as hospice care?

No. Palliative care is available to all patients and their families at any stage of a serious illness and is often provided for patients as they undergo aggressive and curative treatments. Hospice offers a comprehensive package of services to patients with a prognosis of six month or less and whose goals are focus on comfort.

What additional services does hospice offer?

Hospice provides home visits by a comprehensive team of providers including a physician, nurse, social worker, chaplain, home health aide and volunteers. Hospice care is available in many settings, depending on the individual patient needs. Most patients receive hospice care at home, but others have hospice care while staying in a nursing facility or spend brief periods of time in a dedicated hospice inpatient unit. Hospice also provides medications, durable medical equipment, bereavement support and a 24-hour call center for urgent assistance and questions.

Who needs palliative care services?

Palliative care is appropriate for patients at any age and at any stage of a serious or chronic illness. For example, palliative care can be made available to patients with cancer, heart disease, stroke, renal disease, Alzheimer's disease and many other illnesses. It is accessible at any time during the course of an illness, including while a patient is pursuing curative or aggressive treatment. Determining a course of care and access to that care should be discussed with your doctor.

Who serves on the palliative care team?

Doctors, nurses, social workers, spiritual care providers pharmacists and other specialists work together with the patient's own doctors to provide an extra layer of support. The team assists with managing symptoms and providing support for psychosocial concerns.

How does a patient receive palliative care services?

Depending on your personal situation your physician will help you develop the best care plan based on the services available. Patients and their families can request palliative care services at any time during a serious illness and discuss options with their physician. In addition, physicians and medical staff at hospitals or other health care facilities can refer a patient or request that hospitalized patients be evaluated for services by the hospital's palliative care team.

What can I expect when receiving palliative care?

Patients and families can expect comprehensive supportive care for pain and other debilitating physical symptoms. Palliative care services also help patients with other issues that may be causing stress, worry, depression or frustration. The team works to find solutions and address physical, emotional, spiritual or practical problems causing discomfort and pain.

Does insurance pay for palliative care?

Medicare, Medicaid and many private insurance plans cover the services just as they do for other consultative medical services.

Where does a patient receive palliative care services?

Palliative care services, including hospice, are mostly provided in hospitals and inpatient settings. However, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities also can provide palliative care services. Care in a patient's own home or primary residence can be arranged through the services of our Caring Way Team

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